Our family has been trying an experiment: Can we do day-to-day errands without using a car? We’re on year 6 of our experiment, and the answer 90% of the time is yes! Thanks to healthy legs, scooters & bikes, and public transportation, 90% of the time we’ve found we can get to the places we need to be without owning a car. While this experiment isn’t for everyone, I’d like to share a few thoughts that might be interesting to a biking community.
I’ve received a lot of curious looks and honest questions over the years. But the one I probably hear the most often is: How do you get to the grocery store?
We began going car-less in 2009 when we were living near BYU. At the time we had a double stroller with a large basket underneath. Combining that space with a backpack or two, or having the older child walk so we could use the back seat for grocery space, and we could easily fit a week’s worth of groceries. Usually I went a bit light, and went to the store every 3 or 4 days rather than pack the stroller to capacity, but we were known to fill that stroller often enough.
Even a single stroller can fit quite a bit:
After walking so much in Provo, we decided to attempt to remain car-less when we left for my husband’s graduate program at UNM. We spent 5 years in Albuquerque and were fortunate to have 2 grocery stores within a mile and a Costco literally right next door.
Now that we’re back in Provo, I’ve begun using a Madsen cargo bike or “bucket bike” to get our groceries. I’ve absolutely loved it. I think that if someone is going from a car to a bucket bike they might not be quite so impressed, but going from a stroller to a Madsen has been amazing. 🙂 I’ve even taken it up to Costco a few times. (The ride back along University Parkway has an amazing view of the valley, too!)
From my perspective the only downside to the Madsen is that you need to balance the weight of your load in order to have a safe ride. The first few times I used it I didn’t balance it well, and trying to take a quick 90-angle turn wasn’t as graceful –or even successful– as I wanted it to be! I find it best to put the heaviest stuff (be that a child or a box of Hansen’s soda) right on the seat directly behind me, and then pack the other heavy things under the seats.
Not everyone has 5 kids and needs a Madsen to buy their groceries, of course. Using front and/or back bike baskets, with a backpack if needed, can also suffice for carrying a good amount of food.
So the answer is: Yes, it is possible to get groceries without a car! It will require careful housing choices, creative uses of strollers and bikes, and perhaps a few more trips that you’re used to making. And you will need to use a car occasionally for larger or particularly heavy loads.
It’s work, but to be honest, there’s not a whole lot I’m more proud of than a full and perfectly balanced load of groceries.